Semi-Stochastic Gradient Descent Methods

Jakub Konečný, Peter Richtárik

In this paper we study the problem of minimizing the average of a large number ($n$) of smooth convex loss functions. We propose a new method, S2GD (Semi-Stochastic Gradient Descent), which runs for one or several epochs in each of which a single full gradient and a random number of stochastic gradients is computed, following a geometric law. The total work needed for the method to output an $\varepsilon$-accurate solution in expectation, measured in the number of passes over data, or equivalently, in units equivalent to the computation of a single gradient of the loss, is $O((\kappa/n)\log(1/\varepsilon))$, where $\kappa$ is the condition number. This is achieved by running the method for $O(\log(1/\varepsilon))$ epochs, with a single gradient evaluation and $O(\kappa)$ stochastic gradient evaluations in each. The SVRG method of Johnson and Zhang arises as a special case. If our method is limited to a single epoch only, it needs to evaluate at most $O((\kappa/\varepsilon)\log(1/\varepsilon))$ stochastic gradients. In contrast, SVRG requires $O(\kappa/\varepsilon^2)$ stochastic gradients. To illustrate our theoretical results, S2GD only needs the workload equivalent to about 2.1 full gradient evaluations to find an $10^{-6}$-accurate solution for a problem with $n=10^9$ and $\kappa=10^3$.

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